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Khama contender for African Leadership top award

Publishing Date : 16 January, 2018


President Lt Gen Ian Khama and his Liberian counterpart, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are in contention for the Mo Ibrahim Award, Africa’s top leadership award, as the two leaders prepare to retire from office at the end of their constitutional terms.

 Sirleaf, Africa's first elected female head of state and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate will leave office this month in what is officially Liberia's first democratic transfer of power since 1944. She will be replaced by iconic former footballer, George Weah, who won last month’s presidential election run-off. Meanwhile President Khama will retire from office at the end March this year, handing over the baton to Mokgweetsi Masisi, who will become Botswana’s fifth president since independence in 1966.

The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership recognises and celebrates African executive leaders who, under challenging circumstances, have developed their countries and strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, paving the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity

The award also highlights exceptional role models for the continent; ensures that the African continent continues to benefit from the experience and wisdom of exceptional leaders once they have left national office, by enabling them to continue in other public roles on the continent.

The award, which is the initiative of The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, an African foundation, established in 2006 with one focus: the critical importance of governance and leadership for Africa. The foundation was established by Sudanese-British billionaire Mohammed Ibrahim.
The award is recognised as a sign and standard for excellence in leadership in Africa. The award is eligible to former African executive heads of state or government who left office in the last three years; democratically elected; served his/her constitutionally mandated term and demonstrated exceptional leadership.

Both Khama and Sirleaf meet the requirements as prescribed by the foundation. Khama will ride on Botswana’s reputation for good governance and democracy, despite being recent concerns that the country’s standing have been regressing as previously noted by former President Festus Mogae.

Khama has been ranked as the best president on a number of occasions by various organisations including African Leadership Index. Khama would become the third Botswana presidents to peacefully hand power to a successor, the first was the late Sir Ketumile Masire, the architect of the new constitution which provided for 10 year presidential limit. The second is Dr Festus Mogae, who was succeeded by President Khama in 2008.

Though Khama has been criticised for snubbing United Nations and African Union (AU) summit, his moral authority in leadership remains high. He has consistently voiced out against other leaders who did not want to leave power in Africa. In 2016, when  officially opening the 18TH Annual General Conference of Electoral Conference Forum- Southern African Development Committee (ECF-SADC) condemned leaders who refuse to leave power by trying to manipulate an entire elections process which results in countries being plunged into conflict.

“It is common that election related conflicts in many parts of Africa including SADC are self-inflicted,” he said. This he said, is more often than not “the result of attempts to manipulate constitutions to extend otherwise expired terms of office or alterations to electoral calendars and at worst influence elections outcomes and also not conforming to our own guidelines for conduct of elections.”

At his inauguration as chairperson of SADC in 2015,  Khama spoke against the violence in Burundi which were instigated by the country’s President,  Pierre Nkurunziza, who was seeking a third term albeit unconstitutionally. In 2008, Botswana boycotted South African Development Committee (SADC) summit, owing to the fact that ‘illegitimate’ Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe was invited to be part of the summit. Botswana had publicly announced that it did not recognise Mugabe as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe following his victory in an election that was widely condemned as a sham.

Prior to his removal from power at the fall of 2017, Khama was one of the leading figures who urged Mugabe to leave the presidency in a dignified manner. Khama would later change his stance and embraced Mugabe after a compromise deal allowed both Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai to form government of national unity.


 Africa has reputation of being a conflict riddled continent which has been labelled as the top reason for hindering progress economically and politically. Sirleaf leaves a huge legacy behind in her country of Liberia. Not only has she achieved a lot by becoming the first African female president, she also managed to bring peace and stability to a country which had been marred by war and violence for decades. Cherry on top is her decision to leave power at the end of her term. Liberia however is still engulfed by other problems common to other African states such as corruption and unemployment. Sirleaf has gained admiration both in Africa and abroad for her leadership.

Since being launched in 2006, the Ibrahim Prize has been awarded four times. The previous Laureates are President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014), President Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde (2011), President Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008), and President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007). Nelson Mandela was the inaugural Honorary Laureate in 2007. The award carries US$5 million over ten years and US$ 200,000 per year for life thereafter.



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